I don’t think we are ever prepared for the death of a loved one. It is a loss so profound, it cuts a hole in our center, our core and our heart. It leaves us unbalanced, wounded and bleeding. We mourn the ones who die before us and struggle to imagine life without them.
Our family has been hit with three deaths in seven months. I knew Danny’s family before I discovered the Lindau boys had an older brother. Our parents were very close friends and our families often celebrated holidays together. Danny’s brother, his mother, (one month ago), and now my father have left us.
You can’t prepare for it. No matter if it is a slow goodbye or a shock, the finality is something hard to comprehend until it happens. I have imagined it and nothing comes close. I thought I wouldn’t be able to function, but instead I’ve been in hyperdrive. I think I’m still in shock.
But I have found a few things that help. Gathering with family to share memories is the first step in healing. The night my dad died, I made an autumn supper for my husband and children who live in Denver. We laughed and cried over the loss of my dad. He was a great man and could be very funny.
The other way to deal with extreme stress is to get busy. Do housework, laundry, cook, clean, any mindless task or normal activity. I washed windows when I got the news. I cried while finishing. After cleaning up, I cooked our family dinner. Exhausted and reeling, it was worth the effort.
Writing has become a part of my daily routine, so the next morning, I wrote his obituary. I had thought I would regret not preparing it ahead of time, but discovered a healing process in recalling the high points in his life. Talking with my family to review the details gave me comfort too.
Having blogged many times about my dad, I enjoyed perusing my articles for this post. I have included the links to a few of those essays. He was quite a guy.
He had been in the nursing home since April and suffered a grand mal seizure last week. When he revived, he joked with the nurses. The doctors said it was a miracle. There have been many miracles over the years. We had compared him to the cat with nine lives even though he used about fifteen of them.
Up and down over the last few days, my brother and mom were hopeful he would be released from the hospital on Sunday. In the afternoon, Joe asked my dad if he would like some chocolate ice cream, his favorite. Dad ate a full cup and then held my mom’s hand.
“Let’s take a walk and get out of here,” he said to her.
“No Ed. You have to stay here so you can rest up and get better,” said mom.
My dad was quiet for a moment. He took my mom’s hand again and said, “I’m alright.”
A few seconds later he said, “I’m ready,” and he passed away.
He had one exhausted guardian angel. The two of them probably shared a shot of Irish whiskey that night.
Memories of my dad could fill volumes, but the Wisconsin State Journal has its limit. Here’s the full obituary I wrote for him. A shorter version will appear in the newspaper on Sunday.
Edward (Ed), George McCartan passed away with family members by his side on Sunday, October 18th after a long battle with heart disease.
Born on February 22, 1926 in the town of Lake Five, Wisconsin near the Holy Hill area, Ed grew up taking care of the cows and chickens, and occasionally led their horse to plow the fields on the family farm. He remembered when electricity was installed.
He attended Hillside Grade School and graduated from Menomonee Falls High School in 1945. Then Ed drove his Harley Davidson into Milwaukee to the Layton School of Art where he mastered a wide variety of art techniques and sign lettering. Ed also attended the Chicago Institute of Art for one year. For fun on the weekends, he would take apart a car engine and put it back together. Ed liked to keep busy.
He served in the U.S. armed forces for seven years and was honorably discharged in 1952. He contracted rheumatic fever while serving and sustained damage to his heart.
He married the love of his life, Mary Jean May, in 1957, and they moved to Madison where they had three children: Susie, Patty, and Joe.
Becoming one of the original “Mad Men,” Ed went to work as Art Director at Vivid, Naegele, and then Hansen Outdoor Advertising. He hand painted billboards twenty-five feet off the ground and fifty feet wide in oils and enamels sometimes working off a swing stage several stories off the ground. He created the American Family Insurance logo as well as many others in use today. Then he launched McCartan Advertising in 1975 and produced signs, logos, brochures and a wide variety of other artwork for decades.
Ed was very active in the community and was a member of the Madison Rotary Club, Our Lady Queen of Peace Council and The Knights of Columbus. For twenty years, he hand painted banners for the Downtown Madison Parade. He chaired the event one year and was featured as a “Know Your Madisonian,” in the Wisconsin State Journal in 1984.
Mary and Ed bought a Victorian home in Evansville, Wisconsin where Ed slowly retired, but never stopped working. They worked side-by-side renovating the one-hundred-year-old home. He painted many murals on its walls and continued to sketch after moving into the Evansville Manor Nursing Home this spring.
He was a religious man and very reverent in his faith. After finding his family Bible a year ago, he rendered drawings from its photographs.
From childhood, Ed recorded his life in drawings and paintings. Many years ago Ed showed his work at the Art Fair on the Square. Being a humble man and enjoying the act of creating artwork, he never displayed his work again until Mercy Hospice hosted a retrospective of his life’s work at the Evansville Manor. Fifty paintings were displayed along with tables filled with only a sampling of sketches spanning his eighty-nine years.
Ed was quick with a smile and often had a new joke to tell. If there is one word to describe him, it would be “happy.” The world is a much better place having Ed in it. He will be dearly missed by all who knew him.
He is survived by his loving wife, Mary, of 58 years, his daughter Susie (Danny) Lindau and their children, Kelly and Courtney, daughter, Patty, son Joe, his sister, Eileen Gilgenbach, brother-in-law Ted Kieliszewski, nephew Patrick (Linda) Zielinski, and many other nieces and nephews. He was preceded in death by his brother, John and sister, Mary Joan (Kieliszewski).
Visitation will be held at St. Paul Catholic Church in Evansville on Tuesday, October 27 at 10:00 AM. followed by a Mass of Christian Burial at 11:00 with the Knights of Columbus Honor Guard and full military honors.
The family would like to thank Mercy Hospice, Evansville Manor, and the VA Hospital for the wonderful care Ed received.
My Dad’s favorite poem was by Lewis Carroll from Through the Looking Glass and What Alice Found There – 1872. He recited it often.
“The time has come,” the Walrus said,
“To talk of many things:
Of shoes–and ships–and sealing-wax–
Of cabbages–and kings–
And why the sea is boiling hot–
And whether pigs have wings.”
I love you Dad! We will miss you dearly.